Inspired by his own challenging upbringing, Base 11 CEO Landon Taylor created an accelerator program that transforms high-potential, low-resource college and high school students into the STEM-trained talent industry so desperately needs.
Because he was raised by a single father in a low-income neighborhood in San Francisco, Landon Taylor knew that the odds of having a successful career were stacked against him.
“My mom died suddenly when I was 7 so my dad, who was just 23 at the time, had to work three jobs to support me and my younger brother,” Taylor said. “Because of that I learned to be creatively resourceful very early in life; we were stereotypical latchkey kids.”
While many of his friends got caught up in crime, Taylor had an escape.
“My grandparents lived in Berkeley [California] and, fortunately for me, they were there to help my dad keep me on the straight and narrow,” he said. “My grandfather, who was an English major and editor of the school paper at UC [University of California] Berkeley, taught me all about literature and how to play chess. He got me thinking in a bigger, broader fashion and showed me that anything was possible if I put my mind to it.”
Against the odds, Taylor excelled at college for two years, then realized he had a passion for entrepreneurship. He became a real estate agent, then joined First American Corporation, a Fortune 500 real estate information services company. During his 12-year tenure he rose through the ranks, ultimately serving as a division president and a member of the board of directors.
Despite his success, Taylor felt something was missing. “I had done incredibly well and made a lot of money, but something wasn’t sitting right with me,” he said. “While I had this high-flying career, many people from my community were not doing so well. I’d come to realize that if we don’t invest in people then it’s not possible to achieve both sustainable profits and personal fulfillment in the long term.”
Taylor credits the movie Jerry Maguire as the inspiration he needed to find his path. “Not long after watching the film I was approached by an investor and philanthropist friend who remembered a presentation I’d made where I’d predicted that human development would prove to become the 21st century equivalent of the Industrial Revolution,” he said.
“He asked me to help create a business plan for a vision that he had but didn’t know how to create a sustainable business model to execute it. So together we built a world-class team to develop a program to solve two of the country’s biggest problems: the growing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) talent crisis and the underrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities in the emerging middle class. By solving this problem, my friend believed we could help establish a sustainable middle class inclusive of all Americans.”
Taylor decided he wanted to do more than just create the business plan – he wanted to help lead the organization. “And so Base 11 was born,” he said. “We got to work by building ecosystems comprising stakeholders from academia, industry, philanthropy and government. Each local ecosystem is anchored with a Base 11 Innovation Center featuring MIT-inspired fab labs. These are state-of-the-art facilities designed to set students on a direct pathway to four-year STEM degrees, highly paid STEM jobs, and/or being trained as a STEM entrepreneur.”
Base 11 also provides community college students with internships and paid summer fellowships at world-class research institutions with mentorship, exposure to high-tech labs and experience with graduate-level research projects. “Students who participate in these programs extend their academic careers to four-year universities majoring in STEM-related fields,” Taylor said.
The project is paying off.
“We’ve already taken in over 8,000 students and are well on the way to achieving our goal of 11,000 students by 2021,” Taylor said. “We’re producing the next frontier of leaders who are equipped to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Finally, I am truly in a position to do the work of my dreams, which is to develop next-frontier leaders from the classroom to the board room.”